Gov. Bobby Jindal’s advisers say his growing support in Iowa means he should be bumped up to the main stage when the Republican presidential candidates debate again Oct. 28.
But without some form of intervention, Jindal appears to be headed back to another early “undercard” debate.
Jindal top campaign strategists argue that the recently unveiled criteria for the CNBC-televised debate neglect the role that early states play in the nominating process. Iowa’s caucuses are scheduled for Feb. 1, and Jindal has spent much of his time campaigning there since formally announcing his candidacy in June.
But two GOP presidential debates so far have relied on national polls to split candidates into lower-tier early events and main stages that have garnered millions more viewers. CNBC announced late last month that it also would rely on national polling to divide candidates into two separate debates.
“A national survey is predictive of nothing except name ID at this point in the process,” Jindal chief strategist Curt Anderson said by phone Tuesday.
Anderson didn’t outline an exact criteria that would boost Jindal into the main event, but he said he thinks the process should be more reflective if it accounted for candidates polling at 3 percent or higher in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire.
Jindal is averaging 4 percent in Iowa, but has gone as high as 6 percent in recent polls.
“Not only does this (current) criteria discriminate against candidates who are planning to win in early states, it has the ability to shape the outcome,” Anderson said. “It’s a bit more insidious than it looks.”
According to CNBC’s rules, to appear in the later debate at 7 p.m., a candidate must average at least 2.5 percent in NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, CNN and Bloomberg polls conducted from Sept. 17 to Oct. 21. It’s not clear how many additional polls will be released by that deadline.
Jindal has been polling at or below 1 percent in those recent national polls. So far, he would only qualify for the earlier 5 p.m. undercard debate.
Presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina’s campaign fought for her inclusion on the main stage in the second debate after a strong showing in the first lower-tier debate.
Anderson wouldn’t say whether Jindal’s campaign might go the route of Fiorina’s and start petitions aiming to get its candidate on the stage.
“The point her campaign raised was right,” he said. “They were looking at a criteria that didn’t reflect reality.”
Anderson said the criteria, which was revealed late last month, were a departure from earlier discussions, which had included the early-state provisions.
Jindal campaign manager Timmy Teepell said sticking to the national criteria gives the appearance of the party and networks trying to “pick who will win and who will lose.
“Debates are important,” he said.